You can't drive and send text messages from your cell phone at the same time. Or you can, if you insist. But if the traffic police catch you sending text messages while driving, you'll be liable for an NIS 1,000 fine.

Yesterday the Knesset Economics Committee approved amendments to traffic laws, including a knockout blow to text-addicted drivers. The committee has yet to decide on an appropriate fine for reading a text message while driving, but sources in the know say the parliamentarians are looking at about NIS 500. It has long been against the law in Israel to drive while talking on a cell phone unless the phone is plugged into a hands-free device.

Five months ago, MK Ophir Pines-Paz tabled a private member's bill regarding text messaging, but to expedite the legislative procedure, the concept morphed into an amendment to existing transportation regulations. Pines argues that texting while driving poses a serious danger to the driver and to others. "Writing messages while driving could raise the incidence of traffic accidents and endanger the lives of the driver and of many others," he stated.

Another Transportation Ministry proposal presented to the Knesset Economics Committee in the recent past would forbid the use of an earphone connected to a cell phone while driving, which some drivers have started to use instead of a hands-free device.

But the ministry yanked the proposal for reconsideration after incurring opposition from several MKs, including Gilad Erdan of Likud.